Entries tagged “cyborgcamp.”

Video: My CyborgCamp Portland Talk

This one’s a bit painful for me to watch, for a few reasons.

First, my talk had a lot of time-based elements (audio and video), which meant I really needed my 45 minutes, but I started late, and I was the last talk of the day, so I had very little wiggle room. In the future, I’ll definitely insist on speaking earlier if this is the case. I’m a fast talker anyway, but it sounds like I’m trying to break a vocal cord land speed record to get the event wrapped up on time.

Secondly, every piece of technology that could fail did fail in the course of the talk, including the projection screen, audio playback, microphone and presentation wand. I’d never attempted a talk that relied so heavily on tech, and I doubt I’ll do so again for a long while. There are way too many unknown variables, any of which can completely derail your message if it goes awry.

Lastly, I packed way too much into a single talk. I neglected the fact that I’ve spent the last decade thinking about the convergence of my varying interests, and it’s unfair to expect an audience to catch up in under an hour. Attendees who talked to me afterwards tended to gravitate toward one portion of the talk or another, which tells me I would have been more successful if I had exercised a bit more restraint.

Problems aside, I still believe in the ease and control scale I proposed, and that idea is probably presented better here than in the presentation materials alone.

Watch the recording on blip.tv

The Uncanny Valley of Interaction Design

I had a blast speaking at this year’s CyborgCamp Portland. Many thanks to those who attended or tuned in to the livestream!

My slides are available, appropriately enough, on Slideshare.

Most of the videos I showed are available on YouTube. I’ve created a playlist for your convenience. Please note that some of the videos have strong language that I censored for my presentation. This playlist does not include the Eric Schmidt interview (viewable here), the Objectified clip (watch it on Netflix or buy it), the Human Giant sketch (it’s from season one), or Radiohead’s Idioteque performance on Saturday Night Live (because NBC kind of hates the internet).

This is arguably the most ambitious topic I’ve ever tackled. If you have any reactions, comments or criticism, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Reminder: CyborgCamp Portland on Saturday

This Saturday’s going to be awesome! Why? CyborgCamp’s back, that’s why!

The main event happens this Saturday from 9am-6pm, though there’s a pre-party Friday evening and a hackathon on Sunday if you just can’t get enough man-meets-machine goodness.

I’ll be presenting in the afternoon. My talk is called “The Uncanny Valley of Interaction Design.” If you’re a fan of robots, animation, comics, film, music or web apps, you won’t be disappointed. This is also my first presentation with video and (time permitting) an audience-driven Twitter experiment.

More information and tickets (which are a steal at $10) are available from the CyborgCamp Portland site. Will you be there?

Update: Tickets are now sold out! Be sure to tune in to the livestream on Saturday. My presentation starts at 4:15pm (PST).

My Favorite Cyborg Anthropologist

I’m delighted to say that Portland’s own Amber Case (@caseorganic to many of you) has been highlighted in Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology 2010. I’m also pleased that they chose to feature the CyborgCamp logo she and I created in collaboration with volunteers.

Amber is a rare and invaluable personality. I’m fortunate to have a circle of friends who continually challenge me with their ideas and accomplishments; Amber has an abundance of that amazing quality.

When we first met to discuss possibilities for the CyborgCamp logo at Backspace, Amber quickly took me away from the comfort of my sketchbook and tablet PC and to a local gallery. The work displayed there combined organic forms with man-made objects in unexpected ways. These spontaneous unions proved immensely inspirational for the entirety of the project.

That’s Amber in a nutshell (specifically, a hazelnut shell). She shifts you from your typical frame of reference, forcing you to stumble upon a unique (and ultimately more compelling) solution.

Basically, Amber rocks. Go read the article.

Photograph by Mark Colman.

CyborgCamp’s transparent design process

I averted my gaze from the composition adorning the Adobe Illustrator artboard in front of me, purposely avoiding the brunt of its stare and the intense starkness that came with it. I attempted to focus again on the chicken scratches dotting my sketchbook pages (to no avail), or perhaps the multitudes of contradictory feedback which had been offered by disagreeing (yet evenly passionate) volunteers.

The embrace of crowd-sourced editorial direction is of unpredictable comfort and temperature.


To say that designing the logo for CyborgCamp was a unique challenge would be an understatement. Identity design is typically an intimate process (wherein the logo is a relatively small part) in which the designer attempts to know and express both the character of the brand and the needs of the audience. Educating oneself about those needs is often collaborative, but the actual act of design, of applying that knowledge, is quite introspective by comparison.

But then, CyborgCamp was not an ordinary event. Concocted by Amber Case, Bram Pitoyo and their cadre of evil geniuses, CyborgCamp managed to exude purpose in spite of its organic growth and direction, amorphous in scope. This appealed to my artistic sensibilities, and I quickly realized that a transparent design process would be the sincerest approach. Previously, I would have predicted that prolonged transparency would lessen the final product’s impact. Since this hadn’t occured for the event itself, I discarded that concern.

After an initial meeting/sketchbook-jam with Amber, Bram and others (gorgeously captured on film by Mark Colman, one of the coolest guys in Portland), the first round of sketches was posted on Flickr, the CyborgCamp planning wiki and several Twitter feeds. I should give Bram credit for picking the concept (plant circuitry) that would ultimately be deemed the most sensible, and from there the entire world was privy to each and every obsessive adjustment.

I’m proud of the final product; I think it suited the grassroots-meets-geekery mindset of what became an awesome event. I certainly made mistakes along the way, but these experiences led to a series of simple, guiding principals that may help other designers interested in attempting a similar process:

  • Be a director and mediator before a designer. Otherwise, you’ll slip into tweaking endless minutae in lieu of a guiding vision.
  • When possible, give a few variations of a design at once. “Civilians” and non-designerly folk shouldn’t have to learn your industry’s vocabulary; comparitive observations are much more intuitive.
  • Ask relevant questions of specific people. Bram Pitoyo has a strong typographic skill set; why not ask him for extended assistance in type selection and kerning?
  • When no conclusive “next step” is provided from the community, take responsibility for that decision. These are volunteers who, unlike your clients, do not have an obligation to nudge you along. Avoid work stoppage and ignite the conversation by moving a step forward or back as you deem necessary.
It’s hard to say if I would recommend this process to other designers. In early stages, the feedback of enthusiastic Twitterers is nearly immediate and immensely satisfying. Later on, things can slow to a crawl as community members struggle to find passion for every minute detail.

Overall, transparency is a worthy option for projects as unique as CyborgCamp. For more traditional identities? Probably not. That being said, lessons learned in this experience can certainly be applied to more focused, narrowly-collaborative endeavors. In that, this experiment was monumentally successful.